Akihiko scanned the modest crowd seated in the gym bleachers- mostly overly enthusiastic mothers, scattered with little clusters of vaguely uninterested girlfriends there and about.
Though Mitsuru’s red hair stood out among them, a single rose in the garden, Aki nearly missed her among the other spectators.
He had been expecting to see Shinji’s brunette mop sticking up beside her, the prickly chestnut fallen into the garden patch,
but the adjacent seat was instead occupied by a cheerful grandmother waving a sign reading
Mitsuru flashed a brief smile of encouragement before Akihiko turned his attention back toward his opponent. Just in time, as the starting bell rang.
Akihiko felt his stomach sink as he threw his first punch; it felt as if his glove had been suddenly gripped by the Shadows.
He switched to a defensive stance as he attempted to conjure back the image of the faith in him he saw dancing in Mitsuru’s eyes,
pushing his gloves to strike as smoothly as Mitsuru would wield her streamlined rapier. He couldn’t afford to dwell on what might have kept Shinji from showing up to the match.
He and Mitsuru could always fill him in afterward.
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